Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Xolo Score 4.75/5
Felix Ever After is a profoundly wonderful YA novel that will have you feeling so many emotions. Felix Love is a transgender teenager attending a prestigious art school in New York City with an insanely diverse group of friends that span across the LGBTQIA+ and ethnic spectrum. And in true teenage fashion, Felix is stumbling to figure out what it means to fall in love, uncover who's behind the transphobic hate crime against them, and earn an art scholarship to their dream school.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
When we meet the protagonist in Felix Ever After, they have been out as transgender for several years. Even with the pride, they carry as a Black Trans person, Felix's world is irreversibly rocked when a classmate posts pictures of Felix before their transition. As Felix hunts down the culprit, you might be concerned that the book evokes the enemies-to-lovers trope where Felix is set to fall in love with the culprit. But Kacen, throughout the book, is conscious about toxic tropes and stereotypes and intentionally defies them. Kacen consciously omits Felix's dead name, writes sex-positive scenes, the teens smoke weed constantly, and are consumed with thoughts of insecurity, love, and nailing down their career paths as artists.
Kacen Callender sets his story during the scorching hot days of a New York Summer, and Felix is attending art summer school with a diverse group of equally talented friends. As a testament to Gen Z's inclination to reject the gender binary Felix and their friends exist within the beautiful fluidity of gender. But Felix and their friends are not the only ones that explore the social construct of gender. Felix also attends a community meeting dedicated to unpacking gender through dialogue. And most of those in attendance are older adults that have already seen gender evolve several times in their lifetime. The conversations with these community members help Felix in their journey to self-rediscovery. They assure Feliz that humans, like gender, aren't static and are ever evolving.
Although Felix Ever After does a fantastic job of telling the beautifully complicated story of a transgender teen, the book loses points for the constant references to the Harry Potter franchise. Kacen Callender, like many millennials, grew up with Harry Potter being a seminal part of their childhood. But Felix and their friends are most likely Gen Z. And not only does Gen Z tend to steer away from Harry Potter, but since J.K. Rowling outed herself as a TERF it felt like a disservice to the character and stories. Especially because Felix confronts one of their friends for being a TERF. Luckily Kacen announced that references to Harry Potter were removed along with other critical cultural changes to the story.
Felix Ever After is an emotional roller coaster about self-discovery, love, and empowerment.
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To what extent are there BIPOC leading characters or perspectives?
How well does the author avoid writing BIPOC experiences through the white gaze?
To what extent does the author challenge white-centered beliefs?
How well does the book explore nuances between intersectional identities?